When the Maple Leafs return to the ice on February 1st against the Detroit Red Wings, the real charge to the playoffs will begin and there will be much work needed to be completed to fine tune this roster for their charge to the playoffs.
So news that contract discussions between the Maple Leafs and its star centre Auston Matthews are picking up steam is exactly the tonic needed to appease a fan base that hit full meltdown mode during the recent slump. Early reports point to a 6 year deal in the neighbourhood of $12-13 million per season, this would be a huge win and allow the Maple Leafs management to shift their focus to the trade deadline where the team still needs to shore up the defence and possibly pick up some additional depth to round out the bottom six.
Speaking of the trade deadline, The Maple Leafs have been reported as open to trading away their first round pick, prospects and possibly one of Andreas Johnsson/Kasperi Kapanen, I can appreciate the concern that trading a mix of these players, picks and prospects might bring, but to complete an impactful trade to fix the defence, some difficult decisions will need to be made. The Maple Leafs can’t keep all their forwards and something has to give so they can fix their most glaring need on defence that the recent slump only exposed even further.
With GM Dubas being seen scouting the Carolina Hurricanes recently, just adds more credence that the two teams have something in the works. The Hurricanes have an abundance of trade targets on defence that would appeal to the Maple Leafs. Everyone from Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin are all capable of rounding out the Maple Leafs top four, and the Maple Leafs with their abundance of young forwards offer attractive options to the offense starved Hurricanes.
I wouldn’t be the slightest surprised to see a trade happen well before the February 25th deadline, as there won’t be many off days for the Maple Leafs as they play 15 games in February and there won’t be much practice time to get any new player(s) acquired up to speed with their new teammates and systems. So the quicker the Maple Leafs can complete any trade, the faster that player(s) can get up to speed to be impactful to help the team get over the tough stretch of games.
Well Leafs Nation, saddle up as the next four weeks won’t be for the faint of heart with 15 games in February, news on Auston Matthews’ contract extension possibly being completed and breaking trades this will be one hell of a roller coaster ride!
Stayed tuned to Centre of Leafs Nation for the updates and news as they come available!